June 25th, 1876
With apologizes to Rudyard Kipling
In the High and Far-Off Times of the 1870s, George Armstrong Custer, O Best Beloved, desired a fight. He had fought in the Musty-Pusty Civil War and he desired another, for he was full of ‘satiable courage, and that means he sought ever so many fights.
The President Grant, his lips to a bottle, desired that the Army should fight the Sioux Indians who did not want to live on their reservations. So Custer went to President Grant and asked him to send him to fight the Sioux, and President Grant spanked Custer with his hard, hard bottle. And still Custer was filled with ‘satiable courage! So he asked his patron General Sheridan, who appealed to President Grant on Custer’s behalf. And President Grant told Custer, with a throaty cry, “Go to the banks of the (Great Grey-Green) Greasy Grass Creek, all set about with fever-trees, and fight the Sioux!”
So one fine morning, as the Destiny was Manifesting just so, Custer went away, a little warm, but not at all astonished, to fight the Sioux.
Now you must know, O Best Beloved, that Sitting Bull led the Sioux, and had gathered his warriors and many others together in a camp in the red-brown-flat Montana Territory. And Custer had never seen Sitting Bull, and was filled with much curiosity about him, so onward he went with the 7th Cavalry to find Sitting Bull. But Custer and the Army thought there were 800 enemies in the territory, when in fact the number was much, much, much higher.
Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry ordered Custer to take his men and scout forward. “Take these Gatling guns,” said Terry.
“Scuse me,” said Custer most politely, “but they are heavy and will slow my cavalry down.” So Terry spanked Custer for his confidence, which was due to his ‘satiable courage, and Custer left without the Gatling guns.
Next Custer and his men reached a bluff and looked down and saw spread out below an Indian Village.
“I have never seen such a large village!” said Scout Mitch Bouyer, which is the way scouts always talk.
But Custer feared that the Indians would scatter, and so decided to divide his forces and surround them. He gave three companies to Major Marcus Reno, and sent him to the South. And he gave three companies to Capt. Frederick Benteen, and sent him to the North. And Custer took five companies and led them farther North, for that was his favorite thing to do.
“Is dividing your forces wise, when you are vastly outnumbered?” asked a Red-Striped-Limpopo-Grass-Snake, rattling its tail–like this! But Custer did not hear, for he was high up on a horse.
And there, on the banks of the (Great Grey-Green) Greasy Grass Creek, all set about with fever-trees, just as President Grant said, did Custer’s men fight Sitting Bull’s men.
Reno’s men charged first from the South, appearing from the bramble of a thicket, but they were surprised by the size of the village, which was very large indeed, and were forced to retreat. Benteen arrived and reinforced Reno’s weary and retreating troops, who were weary and retreating, instead of continuing North to assist Custer.
And what of Custer and his unfortunate company of 210 men? You must know and understand, O Best Beloved, that nobody knows for sure, for none of them survived. Reno’s retreat and Benteen’s reinforcement allowed the entire, yes the entire village, to focus on Custer’s attack from the North. Some say there were 1,800 Indians, some say 2,000, some say 3,000, but all these numbers are greater than 210, yes much greater!
“Vantage number one!” said Sitting Bull, when he saw his advantageous ratio of warriors to Custer’s men.
“Vantage number two!” said Sitting Bull, when he saw Custer’s lack of Gatling guns.
“Vantage number three!” said Sitting Bull, when he saw no reinforcements arriving to help Custer and his men.
So Sitting Bull’s men fought and fought and fought, and Custer’s men fought and fought and fought.
Historians with their musty glasses agree on little, for that is historians’ way, but they agree that Custer’s men lasted less than an hour. Outnumbered on the banks of the (Great Grey-Green) Greasy Grass Creek, all set about with fever-trees, they fought valiantly, and used their horses as cover, although the horses politely asked them not to. As Custer’s men fell Sitting Bull’s men picked up their rifles and fired them, which was a clever thing to do. And it was all over in an hour.
When the Country heard about Custer’s defeat, they were very warm and greatly astonished. Everyone spanked everyone else, including Custer, who could be spanked only in absentia, which hurts much less. Budweiser commissioned a painting of Custer’s Last Stand, a lovely lithograph of total conjecture, and placed it in drinking saloons all around the nation, to be admired. Eventually President Grant continued his fight against the Sioux, and every other Native people, and there was much unpleasantness. And Custer’s ‘satiable courage was finally ‘satiated.